Re: [Synoptic-L] Luke/John
- To: Synoptic
Cc: GPG; WSW; Victor Mair
In Response To: Mark Matson
A propos dialogics, we had:
Mark: . . . are you suggesting that we actually "know" how these texts were
written, what influences there were, . . .
Bruce: Not without a lot more work than has so far been expended on them.
But I *am* suggesting that, in principle, it is not out of the question to
recover some of those things. They are back there in the past, and depending
on what else we may have available from the relevant part of that past,
there may be something for us to work on, and perhaps that work will succeed
to some extent. [I note that in this question we have a suggestion that
knowledge of the past is impossible, and that claims to "actually know" the
past are intrinsically fraudulent; cf however infra].
Mark: . . . and how they interacted in a web of influence?
Bruce: I would reject "interacted;" I don't think it is a word that
describes a possible textual relationship. Our text, call it C, can only be
influenced by prior texts A and B, and though C can have *opinions* about A
and B, and probably does (cf Lk 1:1-4), it cannot influence them in return;
it cannot make them, in their own niche of the timeflow, other than they
have been. Text C *can* be exemplary (positively or otherwise) for later
texts D and E. The only way that an influence can be mutual, or that an
action of this sort can be an INTERaction, is if one or both parties possess
time depth, that is, if one or both is either composite or continuous.
Example of an interaction: the Nabokov-Wilson letters. But the Nabokov
letters in that set, to take only them, are not a text; they are a series of
texts, each of which obeys the laws of temporal succession. An editor who
arranged them in reverse chronological order would be doing a disservice to
their understanding. No?
Colin Renfrew once suggested, after a lecture of mine own, that all cultural
influences must be mutual and reciprocal. Very PC. I was and remain
flabbergasted at the suggestion, especially as coming from a supposed expert
in just that area. Most cultural influences are in fact lopsided, and a good
many, especially those at a distance, are one-sided. A Chinese silk trader
in Bactria in the year 0326 is not going to have a huge effect on the
recently Hellenized culture of Bactria (conquered and repopulated by
Alexander in 0329/0327), but the reverse is not necessarily true: the trader
is likely to be very impressed by this huge and alien city and the people
who buy silk and drink beer in it, and apart from the absolute necessity to
pick up enough Greek phrases to get his day's business done, he may well
take home a number of vivid and novel (if perhaps lowbrow) impressions of
the Greek and perhaps also the pre-Greek strata of the city's culture. As to
those he leaves behind in the city, the bartender will probably ask no more
of him than "Who was *that* weird guy," and will not stay for an answer.
Chinese elite learning is not likely to take serious root in Bactria as a
result of that contact. The city wipes the counter and carries on as before.
But for what may have happened in the opposite direction, and apparently
did, see my little monograph Alexandrian Motifs in Chinese Texts (1999). A
summary and ordering information are at:
Speaking of "webs of influence:" One textual relation pattern that has a
weblike appearance on the page is the stemma diagram of a manuscript family.
I don't think that any text critic who ever lived would want to say that the
lines of relationship on that diagram flow uphill as well as downhill. It
would wholly refute Maas/West, and everybody else who ever set siglum to
paper. Which would be a good thing if doing so got us anywhere we want to
get, text-critically. On evidence so far presented, I have to doubt that
this is the case.
Mark: Perhaps a newer approach allows us to get a better glimpse of the
dynamics that actually happened.
Bruce: "What actually happened" has always been, in principle and to
whatever degree circumstances allow, available to methodologically
appropriate effort. [I note that in this question we have an assumption that
there *was* an objective something that "actually happened;" cf however
As for whether a "newer approach" lets us get a better glimpse of that
possibly glimpsable object, what would be an instance? My challenge to the
Bayesians, as some on this list will recall (Hi, Dave), is that there is no
valid result in statistics that cannot equally well be obtained *without*
the use of Bayes' Theorem. Same here. I doubt that there is any actual
textual relationship that can only be accessed, or described, in Bakhtinian
terms. If not, then the theory is doing no work, it is contributing nothing
to the result, and its mention is strictly speaking gratuitous.
But I am always up for a counterexample. Is there one?
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst